Firewall Management Maturity Process

Firewall Management Maturity Stage 1: Basic Firewall Management

A firewall comes with base configuration instructions that provide some level of immediate protection. The firewall remains one of the key components of any company’s security approach and should be configured to take full advantage of all its functionality.

Firewalls, out of the box, come with the base policy configuration designed to get up and running. Once traffic begins traversing through the firewall, the inevitable question arises – has it been configured effectively, and does it provide optimal protection based on the vendor guidelines and the specific environment?

We conduct a firewall policy audit, during which, we look for policy conflicts, aging and many other factors that can impact firewall’s ability to effectively secure the network.

Firewalls also produce a lot of event data. Some of it is benign, and some could represent a valid security risk. A robust SIEM or expert analysis will give the ability to correlate events to attack vectors, and actions to protect. These could result in changes to the firewall policy or trigger a health ticket.

Threat actors do not work 9-to-5. Partnering with a 24×7 cybersecurity team provides the breadth of knowledge gained from working with diverse environments.

There also are maintenance activities, policy auditing, adding, and deleting rules, patching and updates required to make sure your firewall is operating at peak efficiency and engaging the vendor to resolve bugs.

Firewall Management Maturity Stage 2: Next Generation Firewall Management

If there is one certainty in technology, and that is Change.

Firewall technology is taking a big step forward with the introduction of next generation firewalls, primarily integrating intrusion prevention capabilities traditionally found in a standalone IPS device into the firewall itself.

The evolution of next generation firewalls brings varying elements of maintenance, updating and management. Effective management can be a delicate mixture, depending on the type of next generation firewall and its capabilities. Adding in integration with sandboxes in the cloud, endpoint solutions and threat intelligence makes the NGFW even more effective, but also adds layers of complexity that makes doing management in-house more challenging.

A recent study determined 66 percent of respondents believe they do not have enough employees to address the level of threats anticipated in the very near future. Regardless of where you are in the firewall journey, there always is the hurdle of having the time and the expertise to audit policies, review rulesets and of course identify security threats – from the amount of data next generation firewalls produce. A very common occurrence is having to write a custom IPS rule, then testing it and committing to the IPS engine. Custom rules can impact performance if not written correctly and sometimes conflict with rules already present.

Teaming up with organization that understands the nuances of next generation firewalls and IPS technologies can be a wise move. Next generation firewalls are more complex than traditional firewall appliances. Security experts can help with change management, upgrades, rule reviews, policy audits and patches, helping your next generation firewall technology discover threats beyond the port and protocol layers.

Firewall Management Maturity Stage 3: Advanced Firewall Management

The firewall technology evolution continues to provide vast capabilities, especially when it comes to gaining more insight into the global threat landscape.

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is seeing threats outside of their environment. That is where the threat intelligence feeds containing custom countermeasures, can enhance the firewall’s effectiveness. Some next-generation firewalls and IPS appliances feature the ability to ingest third-party threat intelligence feeds. These feeds can accelerate the ability for next generation firewall appliances to detect more threats before any harm is done to your data and devices.

As with most other elements of security technology, the origin and makeup of these security feeds matters greatly. This is where an experienced cybersecurity team really can make an impact when it comes to having visibility into the global threat landscape that is accurate, relevant, and actionable. A third-party security organization possessing the ability to monitor the ever-evolving threat landscape can become a critical partner by packaging that knowledge in the form of countermeasures to be ingested by the next generation firewall. This intelligence, usually consisting of custom IPS signatures, and lists of malicious IP addresses and domain names created from effective research bolsters your firewall’s blocking capabilities, along with your appliance vendors’ security feeds. Vendor intelligence plus global threat-intelligence and expert monitoring, tuning and management really can raise the level of effectiveness of the firewall infrastructure, while promoting good security hygiene and protecting your environment.

Our clients look at us as an experienced cybersecurity partner that offers a co-managed approach. In a co-management scenario, you can retain ownership and administration rights to the level you prefer, while we take care of the tasks you either can’t or don’t perform.

Abdul Hafiz

Author: Abdul Hafiz

Solution Architect & Partner


Ascent InfoSec, the cybersecurity focus of Ascent Innovations LLC

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